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CNN reported the names of two members of the CFIUS committee who approved the port deal.  They are Stewart A. Baker, from the Dept. of Homeland Security, and Clay Lowery of the Treasury department. Their White House nomination announcements are below, along with transcripts for the Paula Zahn Now show.

John Roberts, newly CNN, did the report.  Both were nominated for their current positions during the summer of 2005. So two men, who were nominated six and seven months ago just made this decision about our ports. And they forgot to mention it to their bosses until a few days ago. John Roberts reports "Lowery says that committee's deliberations have to be secret to protect proprietary corporate information. And, unless there is a national security concern, which, in this case, he insists there wasn't, there is no need to notify Congress, or even the president."

CFIUS is The Treasury Department Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, which is represented by twelve member departments in the Executive branch, and is the committee which approved the Dubai Ports World port deal.

From CNN Transcripts     (UPDATE 10:31pm - added transcripts)

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): (AUDIO GAP) a process guarded by secrecy. So, who signed off on the deal? CNN has learned, the two main players on the Committee for Foreign Investment in the United States were Stewart Baker, from the Department of Homeland Security, and the Treasury Department's Clay Lowery. And, yes, they feel stunned by this enormous backlash.

(on camera): You know the way that this is being portrayed. You know, who -- who -- who are the dunderheads who made this decision? Does -- does that perception trouble you?

CLAY LOWERY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF THE TREASURY: I think it does to a degree, I mean, as one of the, I guess, the leader dunderheads.
ROBERTS: The pending sale of terminal operations at six East Coast ports has thrown new scrutiny on the process and whether the committee, formed during the Cold War, operates within the new realities of the war on terror.

Clark Kent Ervin, former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security, and a CNN analyst, believes, CFIUS, as it's called, is sorely in need of reform.

CLARK KENT ERVIN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: If treaties and trade agreements are important enough to require congressional approval, it seems to me that the sale or acquisition of a key strategic asset in the age of terror, likewise, requires congressional sign-off.

ROBERTS: Ervin isn't the only one who has problems with CFIUS. Last September, the Government Accountability Office issued a report critical of the committee's narrow definition of what constitutes a threat to national security. It also faulted the opaque nature of the process, limiting information provided to Congress.

Lowery says that committee's deliberations have to be secret to protect proprietary corporate information. And, unless there is a national security concern, which, in this case, he insists there wasn't, there is no need to notify Congress, or even the president.

LOWERY: The president not knowing about it is -- shouldn't shock people, in that we -- there's a number of transactions that happen every year. I believe there were 65 last year.

ROBERTS: In fact, we learned today, Lowery's boss, the secretary of the treasury, was in the dark, until after the deal had been signed off on.

That staffers made such a sensitive decision, and without involving their superiors, say critics, is a troubling sign of creeping complacency in the war on terror. ERVIN: I think America, frankly, is in danger of having gone back to sleep. Because we haven't been attacked in five years, we're beginning to assume -- whether we're conscious of it or not -- that we're never going to be attacked again.

CNN transcripts
Stewart A. Baker
The President intends to nominate Stewart A. Baker, of Virginia, to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Policy). Mr. Baker is currently a Partner with Steptoe & Johnson, LLP in Washington, D.C. He previously served as General Counsel for the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction. Prior to that, Mr. Baker served as General Counsel for the National Security Agency. Earlier in his career, he was a law clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens, U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Baker received his bachelor's degree from Brown University and his J.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles. (July 13, 2005)

Clay Lowery
The President intends to nominate Clay Lowery, of Virginia, to be Deputy Under Secretary of the Treasury (International Affairs). Upon confirmation, the President intends to designate him Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (International Affairs). Mr. Lowery currently serves as Vice President for Markets and Sector Assessments at Millennium Challenge Corporation. He previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Debt and Development Finance at the Department of Treasury. Prior to that, he was Director for International Finance for the National Security Council. Mr. Lowery received his bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia and his master's degree from the London School of Economics. (August 23, 2005)

Originally posted to joanneleon on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 07:01 PM PST.


So, did their bosses know about this deal before it was approved?

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Comment Preferences

  •  Well we're getting some names (none)
    as the heads of the departments run for cover.

    I thought it interesting that these two men were nominated about six months ago.  And they just made this weighty decision, and apparently they forgot to mention it to their bosses.  Hmm.

    On Bush: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." --(borrowed from) Churchill

    by joanneleon on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 07:06:11 PM PST

  •  Hilarious (none)
    In another moment of inadvertent honesty, Lowery admits he was surprised by public reaction, as one of the "leader dunderheads."  

    Sometimes you cover your ass with the lame excuses you have, instead of the lame excuses you wish you had. (-3.00, -5.49)

    by litigatormom on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 07:45:15 PM PST

    •  Couldn't resist (none)
      using that quote.  Funny, but not funny - in that gallows humor kind of way.  I thought it just highlighted how ridiculous the cover stories can be.

      On Bush: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." --(borrowed from) Churchill

      by joanneleon on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 07:54:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  CFIUS... (none)
    ...if the 12-member department heads didn't know of the secret decision that does not relieve them of any responsibility. If they make that claim they should be fired for incompetence. Actually I hope they do hang on to the didn't know claim. That will illustrate to the American public the totality of incompetence the Bush administration has put in place in the national government. Damn the rest of the world must be laughing their asses off at this continuing comedy of ignorance. I'd laugh too except I'm quickly reminded of the thousands of lives they are murdering due to their arrogant incompetence.

    Our nations quality of life is based on the rightousness of the people.

    by kalihikane on Wed Feb 22, 2006 at 07:52:51 PM PST

  •  CFIUS my ass. (none)
    Stewart A. Baker, from the Dept. of Homeland Security, and Clay Lowery of the Treasury department. Strange, very strange. Upon review of the twelve heads that are supposed to make the decision I can't find Stewart A. Baker or Clay Lowery or for that matter any one named "dunderheads".....

    Treasury Secretary John Snow (Chairman)

    Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

    Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

    Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff

    Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez

    Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez

    D.O.M.B. Director Joshua Bolten

    U.S. Trade Representative (to the WTO) Robert Portman

    Chairman of Council of Economic Advisors Edward P. Lazear

    Director, Office of Science & Technology PolicyJohn H. Marburger, III

    Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Stephen Hadley

    Assistant to the President for Economic Policy Allan Hubbard

    I do notice a John Snow listed as Secretary of Treasury and I assume this person is also the one displayed in the paragraphs below.

    Treasury Secretary John Snow chairs the "Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States"(CFIUS) which made the decision for the administration.
    John Snow was formerly CEO of CSX, which - among other things - owned CSX/Sea-Land. A
    former director for CSX/Sea-Land, David Sanborn, left and became a director for Dubai Ports
    International. He was responsible for South American operations when CSX sold its port
    operations in South America to Dubai Ports in 2004.
    Former Snow employee Sanborn left his gig at Dubai Ports two weeks ago to accept the job as
    Assisstant Secretary of Transportation - Maritime Administration. Introduced to the Senate, by
    the way, by his good buddy, Senator George Allen.
    Then just two-weeks hence, this decision is made which will undoubtedly enrich all current
    stockholders in CSX/Sea-Land and Dubai Ports.

    Now then for all to contemplate a definition of conflict of interest.

    A conflict of interest is a situation in which someone in a position of trust, such as a lawyer, a politician, or an executive or director of a corporation, has competing professional or personal interests. Not a really good one but it will do.

    Having a conflict of interest is not, in and of itself, evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, for many
    professionals, it is virtually impossible to avoid having conflicts of interest from time to time.

    Someone accused of a conflict of interest may deny that a conflict exists because he/she did not
    act improperly. In fact, a conflict of interest does exist even if there are no improper acts as a
    result of it.

    One way to understand this is to use the term "conflict of roles". A person with two roles - an individual who owns stock and is also a government official, for example - may experience situations where those two roles conflict.

    The conflict can be mitigated - see below - but it still exists. In and of itself, having two roles is not illegal, but the differing roles will certainly provide an incentive for improper acts in some circumstances.

    Thought I'd add that out of a extreme sense of fair play.

    The best way to handle conflicts of interest is to avoid them entirely. Short of avoiding conflicts of interest, the best way to deal with them is one or more of the following (mitigation) measures:

    Commonly, politicians and high-ranking government officials are required to disclose financial
    information - assets such as stock, debts such as loans, and/or corporate positions held, typically

    Those with a conflict of interest are (ethically) expected to recuse themselves from (i.e. abstain
    from) decisions where such a conflict exists. Generally, codes of ethics forbid conflicts of interest.

    The easiest way to define ethics would be to state that which a politician does not have.

    However, at the risk of redundancy, I give you this link.

    "United States Office of Government Ethics
    Office of Government Ethics' Web site. Here you will be able to access data about OGE and the services it provides. We hope this site will help you understand the executive branch ethics program and our effort to reach Federal employees and the general public."

    This whole mess is nothing more than a conflict of interest and the inherent greed thereof.

    John Snow is not alone re this charge. The list of names is rather extensive so I'll simply mention the Carlyle Group.

    Oh, BTW, has anyone heard about a deal that fell through to sell CSX assets to the Carlyle Group in October of 2002, shortly before John Snow stepped down from CSX to become Bush's appointee as Treasury Secretary? Read that somewhere.....

  •  These people are liars. (none)
    So those who say they did not know we can assume in fact knew.

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